Russia: Journalist Vladimir Chugunov Held in Psychiatric Detention

Vladimir Chugunov, editor of the independent weekly Chugunka and recipient of the 2002 Sakharov Prize for freedom of expression, has been held in psychiatric detention since 21 January 2007. More than two and a half months later he remains detained in isolation. English PEN is deeply concerned for the wellbeing of Chugunov, believed to be held in violation of his right to freedom of expression, and joins calls for his release.

Chugunov was summoned to police headquarters in Solnechnogorsk, outside of Moscow, allegedly as a witness to a robbery. However, he was subsequently jailed and policemen confiscated back issues of Chugunka from his home. The robbery charge was eventually changed to ‘causing deliberate health damage,’ a criminal indictment that carries up to 8 years in prison. Chugunov was then reportedly moved to a mental hospital. Authorities told Chugunov’s sister, Anna Zuyeva, who has been denied visitation rights, that the charge against Chugunov has changed once again, this time being reduced to the ‘threat to murder or cause serious health damage’, a charge that carries up to 2 years in prison.

On 6 February, doctors from the district mental hospital in the nearby village of Chyornaya Gryaz called Zuyeva to inform her that Chugunov was there. It is reported that he is scheduled to undergo psychiatric evaluation on 23 February. Chugunov has been ‘quarantined’ and held in isolation, leading to increased concern for his well-being.

Chugunov, a 2002 recipient of the prestigious Sakharov award for his journalism-a prize named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov and given to those who work in defense of human rights and civil liberties-wrote a series of articles critical of local administration. The newspaper Novaya Gazeta reports that in July 2002, attackers beat Chugunov and broke his right hand, saying, “Here you go now, writer, write if you can!”. When the municipality-owned printing house GorReklama refused to print Chugunka in January 2005, Chugunov produced the paper at home (Glasnost Defense Foundation).

Please send appeals:
– expressing alarm at the arrest and incarceration in a psychiatric hospital of journalist Vladimir Chugunov;
– pointing to concerns that he appears to be detained for articles published in his newspaper, which would be a direct attack on his right to freedom of expression;
– calling for his immediate release, or, at a minimum, respect for his right to receive visits from his family and a lawyer.


Mr Vladimir Vladmirovich Putin           

President of the Russian Federation       




Fax: 7 095 206 5173 / 230 2408           



Mr Vladimir Ustinov

Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation

Rossiyskaya Federatsiya  103793

Moskva K-31, Ul. B. Dimitrovka, d 15a

Prokuratura Rossiyskoy Federatsii

Generalnomu prokuroru Ustinovu V

Russian Federation

Fax: 7 095 292 88 48

It may be more effective to send appeals to Russian representatives in London:

HE Mr Yury Viktorovich Fedotov
6/7 Kensington Palace Gardens
London W8 4QP
Fax: (020) 7727 8625

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